Sensor system sees missile launch

October 05, 2000

A new type of airborne infrared search and track system -- a critical technology for theater air and missile defense -- recently passed a key test. In early September, the Risk Mitigation Sensor (RMS) system, which was developed by Raytheon with funding from the Office of Naval Research and the Ballistic Missile Defense Office, observed the launch of a Black Brant missile from the White Sands Missile Range. The launch was detected instantly and declared in the RMS wide field-of-view mode and then automatically handed off to the narrow field-of-view, which tracked the target throughout the second-stage boost phase and for more two minutes after burnout. The RMS flew on board the Raytheon Convair 580 aircraft flying at 17,400 feet from the launch site. The early parts of the launch were obscured by clouds, but the RMS detected the coasting missile as soon as a cloudless line-of-sight was available. Due to its small size and high angle rates, the Black Brant missile and missile trajectory are actually more challenging to track than actual theater ballistic missiles.

The performance of the RMS as demonstrated in this test far exceeds that of existing airborne infrared search and track systems. The technology, which could find its way into the Fleet within the next five years, has applications in airborne warning and control systems, E-2Cs, airborne lasers, Unmanned Air Vehicles and Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles.

Office of Naval Research

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